Everyone is entitled to practice their religion. Everyone has the right to voice their opinion. The bill of rights states that this right could never be taken away, but does it make it right for a person to use this right to attack a person? On March 3rd, 2006 a Marine, Lance Corporal Matthew Snyder, died of injuries sustained in a vehicle accident in Anbar province, Iraq. A week later a funeral service was held in honor of this fallen soldier in his hometown of Finksburg, Maryland.
As the service began an accumulation of people began to assemble to riot with signs that say, “Thank God for Dead Soldiers. ” The source of this commotion all comes from the presence of one man and his congregation, Pastor Fred Phelps and the Westboro Baptist church of Topeka, Kansas.
The Westboro church’s actions all stemmed from Phelps and the church’s belief that God is punishing the United States for allowing homosexuals into the military, although Lance Corporal Snyder was not homosexual, in fact, Phelps claims he was not targeting the family of the deceased but instead was targeting the U. S. Military, only using Snyder’s funeral as a forum for their protest. These actions carried on by the Westboro Baptist church are nothing new to the public; the congregation has made several appearances at funerals since 1955 causing major controversies throughout the world, but Albert Snyder, the father of the deceased marine decided to take legal action against the offenders, by suing the church, its Pastor and his two daughters. Swearing to the public Snyder stated that he wasn’t doing it for the money, but wanted to silence the group.
Snyder also stated he was fighting to protect the other families emotionally torn from the pain inflicted by the Westboro church, as he himself felt his son’s memory was disrespected and privacy was evaded on. On February 4th 2008 the case went to a District level Court in Maryland which Judge Bennet ruled in favor of Snyder awarding him from a reduced five million dollars by applying both federal constitutional and state common law standards to 2. million dollars emotional damages caused by the church. Three days later Phelps filed a statement to the Court of Appeals in the Fourth District On September 24th 2009, the appellate court ruled in Phelps’s favor, siding with his right to practice freedom of speech and religion no matter how outrageous, had been protected by the First Amendment. Snyder argument had also been eakened because he did not actually see the protest except for on television. He didn’t even know it was going on until after the funeral already ended and had returned to his home and viewed it on the news. Being that both parties are arguing from different states, the United States Supreme Court had to get involved. On March 2nd, 2011 The Supreme Court in an 8 to 1 decided, as did the Appellate court sided with Phelps and his congregation.
The deciding detail the caused the decision was Phelps’s protest occurring on a public sidewalk, and is talking about issue that is well known to the public, cannot be held responsible for the emotional distress that occurs as a result, had Snyder had been in view of Phelps’s protest he would have been saw as an unwilling listener to the hateful sermon. Catching up with Albert Snyder after the decision, he states. “It’s over” and he’s ready to move on Snyder only regrets not properly finding closure to son death after fighting a legal war for five years the Fred Phelps and his Party.